The past few weeks, I have been in and out of town as I have sought-out musical offerings both locally and in neighboring communities. While there are certainly plenty of quality programs here in Central Louisiana, I always enjoy travelling to hear performances in other communities as well.
My tour began on Saturday, February 15 when I travelled to Shreveport for a production of The Mikado by the Shreveport Opera. Updated and reimagined for a modern audience, this classic Victorian-era opera by Gilbert and Sullivan found protagonist Nanki-Poo as a would-be rock star who falls in love with an anime-inspired schoolgirl named Yum-Yum. The cameo appearances by Godzilla and Pokémon mascot Pikachu added their own contemporary spin! I am usually not one for these sorts of contemporary reinterpretations, but in the case of The Mikado, I found these additions to be a fun twist which only enhanced the inherent comedy of the opera. Featuring the same talented young artists who traveled to Alexandria for a week-long residency last fall, The Mikado made for quite an enjoyable evening. On April 26, the Shreveport Opera will complete its 2013-14 season with a production of Turandot by Giacomo Puccini.
I remained local for Expressions of Love on Tuesday, February 18 – a concert featuring the Red River Chorale and hosted by St. James Episcopal Church. For me, highlights included the Latin song “Adoramus te Christe” by the little-known Classical-era composer Quirino Gasparini as well as several familiar selections from the Love Song Waltzes by Johannes Brahms. On May 3, the Red River Chorale will complete its season alongside the Rapides Symphony Orchestra when they present Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Finally, last weekend, I travelled to Dallas where the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus were presenting Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem. Amazingly, I had never before heard this legendary composition in its entirety. It was well-worth the wait, however, as the combined forces of the orchestra, chorus, and four soloists gave a stunning performance. I disagree with the complaint usually leveled against Verdi’s Requeim – that it amounts to nothing more than an opera with a sacred text. I was actually shocked at how little the music resembled the famous opera arias and choruses that I am familiar with. There were no intrusions of “La donna è mobile” nor did the singers feel the need to offer toasts while exclaiming “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici.”
Another component of travelling that I enjoy is programming music for the drive. On the way to The Mikado, I seized upon the oriental theme of the opera, creating a playlist of other Asian-inspired music. These included Pagodas by Claude Debussy, the gamelan-inspired music of American Alan Hovhaness, as well as the ballet The Red Poppy by Reinhold Glière which is set in China. The ten hours of Requiem masses that I listened to on the way to-and-from Dallas was a bit more ambitious, but also quite rewarding. Beginning with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s familiar Requiem, others included masses by François-Joseph Gossec, Hector Berlioz, Gabriel Fauré, Johannes Brahms, Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, and Krzysztof Penderecki.
I believe I will be staying-put in Central Louisiana this March. But, there will certainly be plenty to do. Check back at MusicCentral in the weeks to come as there will be new posts as events draw nearer.
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a recent graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college located on the campus of Northwestern State University. There, he studied music history, completing an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” Now living in Alexandria, he is one of the founding members of TicketCentral and will also be writing this season’s program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra.